Drone Helps Pennsylvania Dairy Farmer Save Time and Money on Crop Production

It takes only seconds to grab a gallon of milk from the grocery store shelf, but the process of getting it from the cow to your cart has grown incredibly complex over the last century.

Lakevue Farm in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, has been in the Couch family for generations. Travis and Becky Couch took ownership of the farm in 2016 and currently care for and milk 100 cows twice a day. They also tend to crops on 350 acres of land, with the help of Travis’ parents. Becky also works full-time as a Labor and Delivery Nurse at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital, and the couple raises four young daughters.

Balance is hard to come by, to say the least.

Most of the crops produced on the farm go toward feeding the cows. While the milk is produced in Huntingdon, it’s not necessarily sold there. The Couches run a commercial farm, meaning they produce milk for a processor. The processor then mixes their milk with milk from other commercial farms and ultimately sends that milk to a distributor. So, when you purchase a gallon of milk at the grocery store, it could very well have come from multiple farms.

Because the success of the farm depends on their ability to work and produce a certain quantity of milk, Becky and Travis have been talking about the farm’s future and ways to generate additional income.

One morning, Travis came to Becky saying he needed a name for his business.

“I said, I don’t know what business you’re talking about,” said Becky.

She didn’t know that Travis had been researching the use of drones for farming and wanted to give it a shot.

“Travis is super cautious with investments and choices,” says Becky. “So, I wasn’t surprised that he had everything in line before he was ready to take that risk.”

Travis had to go through the necessary training and licensing procedures, but successfully launched Stone Valley Drones in the Spring of 2023.

“The idea behind it was that I could do my own spraying, rather than pay someone to come in and do that,” says Travis. “I can do it when I want it done, rather than relying on someone else’s schedule.”

The drone Travis uses isn’t your typical drone. It’s about 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall. While he primarily uses the drone to spray crops, he can also use it as a seed spreader to plant cover crop over the corn.

“People don’t even know what farmers do to care for their land and their crops,” says Becky.

She believes her husband’s initiative in starting his new business is a great lesson for their children to witness.

“That you have a dream. You have an idea. You put in the legwork to make sure that it’s going to pan out, and then you invest, and you do it,” says Becky. “I’m very proud of him.”